Online scammers are smart: they know that many people under age 30 primarily use digital tools to manage their finances. That’s why there’s been an increase in fraudulent activity targeting this age group – and why consumers of all ages need to be alert.
The primary channels for these fraud attempts are social media and mobile deposits. In most cases, scammers offer “easy money” in exchange for doing them a favor. The payoff sounds too good to be true… and of course, it is.
The mobile deposit scam typically goes like this:
- An individual is contacted by someone impersonating a friend or claiming to have a connection. Scammers can lift names and photos from social media accounts and pretend to be a friend, or may claim to be a “friend of a friend” (or a similar relationship).
- The scammer needs “help” with a substantial amount of money. The scammer says he has received a large sum such as an unexpected bonus, an inheritance, or sometimes simply a “gift,” but needs the individual’s assistance to obtain it.
- The scammer wants something in return. In exchange for a share of the money, the scammer asks the person to return the balance using gift cards, cash, or wire transfer. The scammer may even ask for account numbers or access to the person’s online account.
- The scammer deposits a fake check via mobile deposit. The check immediately appears in the account, so the individual sends the scammer the gift cards or cash.
- The check is detected as fraudulent, and the individual loses the money. Financial institutions have review systems in place that detect fraud very quickly; however, the scammer has fooled the person into sending money before the fraud alert can be activated. As a result, the individual has little hope of ever recovering the money that was lost.
Similarly, scammers use fake checks in phony “work from home” job offers. Consumers apply online for jobs from a company that sends them a check to buy equipment, saying they can “keep” the rest. Of course, the check is fraudulent, and any “investment” or “fee” paid by the applicant disappears.
Social media represents a bonanza of opportunities for fraud because of the amount of personal information that people post and share. In addition, it’s easy to set up a bogus sweepstakes, quiz, or contest to get people to provide personal details.
Be conscientious about the content of your social media posts and keep these tips in mind to prevent fraud:
- Use the “Settings” function to limit the people who can view your posts.
- Ignore offers for “quick cash” or other unregulated financial situations. If the message seems to be from someone you know, double-check by calling the person or reaching out and confirming their identity via a separate email message.
- Do not get pressured into acting immediately by a deadline or “limited time offer.” Scammers try to create a false sense of urgency to get you to act without thinking things through.
Follow established guidelines - and your common sense - to prevent online fraud and digital scams. These simple precautions can help keep your money safe and secure.